Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

The Shadow Out of Hollywood

Hi there — it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but hey — a dude’s gotta make a living, huh?

It’s been a pretty wild couple of months. I actually signed a contract with a literary agent and was quite excited at the prospect (I’d been looking for an agent for over a year and FINALLY got one — yippee), only to have the gentleman inform me last week that maybe repping me was more than he could handle right now. I spent the day in deep gloom, dropped him a polite thank you and got back to business. I’m currently trying to contact an agent whom I was in discussions with, then broke off when I signed with this guy, but I haven’t heard back from them yet, so that window might be closed as well. On the positive side, I have a 15k word pulp story almost finished for Pulp Empires, have completed an assignment for Paradigm Press’ Witch Hunters rpg and will probably get another one soon, so it’s not all bad.

I’m at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival here in Portland for the weekend and I hope I can get some photos. Last night we watched some very high-quality short horror/supernatural films from a range of countries, and a very nostalgic revival of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (screenplay by John Carpenter under the pseudonym “Martin Quatermass” which should mean something to all those fans of 1960s British sci-fi out there). It holds up pretty well, actually. Later I look forward to seeing the brand spanking new “Cabal Cut” of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, another potentially great film that was cut to ribbons by a studio that didn’t understand fuck all about what made Barker’s work so special.

I can only repeat my past assertions that HPL himself probably would have been horrified to see what a crowd of alternative-types his work has attracted, but I’m not complaining a bit. Even though it reminds me that I really feel as if I was born too early (certainly before being a geek became sexy), I don’t mind the opportunity to go hang out with a fanbase that includes writers, filmmakers, poets, artists, Goths, punk rockers and very attractive women with body piercings and tattoos. God knows, if I’d tried to get women interested in HPL back when was in my twenties, I’d have been locked up.

Anyway, owing to work and the various writing projects I haven’t updated in a while, but I’m determined to at least get some minimal thoughts blogged on a regular basis from here on out. I’m also working on a new column about the odd and bizarre rpg products that I’ve encountered over the years, and kicking it off with David Hargraves’ The Arduin Grimoire, one of the most flamboyant collections of over-the-top gaming supplements ever produced.

Stay tuned. More to come, hopefully this very weekend.

It’s Finally Getting Hot

Here in the pacific northwest we’ve been largely spared from the heat that’s been ravaging the rest of the country. So far it’s not gotten over about 85 and it’s actually drizzled a few times. This weekend it’s finally getting into the 90s, but the trees are still lush and green and there’s enough moisture in the air that it isn’t getting too horrific.

I think I’m over the hump on my rewrite, and am now hopefully coasting to completion. We’re leaving for Gencon in about 11 days (I hope to send bulletins and photos for all you benighted folks who are missing it), and I’m hoping to at least have a draft done by then. Maybe I’ll try to placate my dreadful fear of heights by editing on the plane or something.

I met with a neighborhood organizer today and I’ll be participating in a Democratic get out the vote push. I haven’t worked on a campaign since I registered voters in ’88 (and discovered that I was actually unknowingly working for the Church of Scientology — there’s a story I’ll have to tell someday), and I figured it’s time to put up or shut up. I’m pretty pissed off about the way politics has gone over the past few years, with the lunatics apparently running the congressional asylum, and politicians saying things like “Sure I believe in bipartisanship, as long as the other party does exactly what we want them to and doesn’t expect me to compromise on anything.” So, in order to at least hold the line against whackjobs like this guy until people come to their senses, I’m registering Democrats and reminding them to vote in November. It ain’t much, but it’s something.

Also today’s a pretty huge thing for me since we’re going to go see Johnny Clegg (aka the White Zulu) and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Washington Park Zoo. I’ve never been to one of their concerts out there, and it looks like it’s going to kick ass.  I have been a fan of the good Mister Clegg for a quarter century or so, since I bought a used copy of the Scatterlings of Africa single (check out the video — damn that man could dance… he could even fall down artfully) while reeling from the aftereffects of divorce and financial meltdown. I pretty much wore out the record (as well as Jefferson Starship’s Find Your Way Back – totally 80s video, huh? I’d love to play that Pete Sears solo, and can anybody tell me what the hell that thing is that Paul Kantner is playing? — which has also been an anthem of mine every since), and finally saw Juluka in concert (the opener was Murray Attaway from Guadalcanal Diary, and damned if I didn’t become a fan of theirs too).

I’ve raved about Johnny Clegg before and I probably will continue to do so until they nail my coffin shut. To see him with Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a real treat, as I consider them all to be heroes of both music and politics, people who stood up for freedom and equality in the face of entrenched authority and showed the rest of us the way. I was particularly happy that when I programmed Johnny Clegg and Juluka into one of my music service programs and it started bringing up related artists, and I saw that there are now many integrated bands from southern Africa, producing music and showing what we can do when we work and live together instead of in separate armed camps. Sometimes I think that some politicians, talking heads and agitators have completely forgotten the saying that united we stand, divided we fall.

Anyway, enough of that for now. It’s a very warm Saturday and I’m going to go pack a cooler full of ice and sodas and dance to the sounds of freedom as the copper sun sinks low. Hope all are doing well. Keep in touch :)

Still Laboring

Given the tragic events in Colorado — a state that sometimes seems like a magnet for this magnitude of tragedy, doesn’t it? — I’m slightly less enthusiastic about going out to the movies these days, and kind of depressed about my fellow humans’ state of mind. I’m also with my friend Ari http://mouseferatu.com/index.php/blog/us/ when he says that the worst thing we can do right now is politicize the tragedy. I think that discussions of societal erosion, gun control and related issues should probably wait until a later date.

Other than that I’m just delivering another round of public self-abuse, in that I’m pointlessly talking about my writing projects, which I suspect don’t interest too many people right now. As previously noted I’m in the process of rewriting a novel to make it more palatable to a potential agent (and in retrospect, I’m largely inclined to agree with her assessment that there are long stretches in the original book where nothing — or at least not enough– actually happens), and it’s the most extensive rewrite I’ve ever engaged in. Unless of course you count the original rewrite, in which I expanded an 8,000 word short story into a 100,000 word novel, a feat that I think I can be justifiably pleased with.

What am I learning about rewriting this thing? I’m learning that rewriting is a bitch.

Here’s the deal — “rewriting” doesn’t mean “revising” — i.e. just going through and tightening up dialog or fixing minor narrative glitches. It means literally rewriting much of the book from scratch and making some very basic structural changes to the story.

For example, the original version of the story had (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned) a plucky female reporter as the narrator’s sidekick and eventual girlfriend. On rereading I came to the painful conclusion that said plucky reporter didn’t really add anything to the story, and another part of the rewrite, in which I moved an important event from Idaho back to the Portland area completely eliminated the two characters’ initial meeting and rationale for wanting to get to know each other. Also, the plucky reporter was only in about a third of the book and in most of those places it felt as if I’d kind of shoehorned her into the narrative for no good reason. So, with great regret, exit plucky female reporter.

I just murdered a character, and I feel bad about it.

After that I have the problem of rewriting a narrative that I completed almost two years ago. When I finished the first draft, it felt about right. Sure, I made some changes, but they were more along the lines of what I called “revision” above — rewriting a fight scene here, changing the character’s reactions over there, tweaking dialog elsewhere, adding a scene with a new minor character, etc. It all seemed to flow with the narrative I’d created.

Now I’ve gone after the narrative and continuity with a hacksaw. I have cut the story up, rearranged it, shuffled it, truncated it, and generally acted like Dr. Frankenstein. Whole scenes are gone, with new ones to take their place. Scenes from one place are surgically removed and grafted elsewhere. Characters who were minor become more major. Major characters get rewritten, relationships get changed, and some folks (poor Kate the reporter, for example) are gone completely.

It’s hard to explain the problems I’m having, but I think it comes down to issues of the story flow. When I’m first writing, it’s generally in sequence and mostly chronological. One part of the story flows into another, and when I write a scene, the memory of the previous scene is still fresh in my head. Now, as I rewrite, that sense of continuity, of smooth narrative, is gone, replaced by a jagged, bumpy road where I go to the end of the novel, then back to the beginning, then to the middle and back to the end. There’s no sense of sequence or linearity, so it’s hard for me to write scenes with the right narrative or emotional quality.

Add to this the fact that some sections are getting completely rewritten. I’m about 65k into the rewrite (on the homestretch, actually), and I’ve pretty much decided to throw out the last 30k or so of the original story and start over. The character dynamics have changed, the time period has shrunk drastically (from weeks to days or hours), one major character is gone, two new ones have sort of taken her place, I don’t have quite as much scene setting, etc., etc.

It’s a pain in the ass. And what I guess bothers me most of all is the notion that this may all be for nothing. That I’ll rewrite, reorganize and resubmit, only to get another friendly but firm rejection, because the problems weren’t addressed adequately. The fear is that after all my work I’ll be back where I started, with no publisher, no agent, and only the rather bleak prospect of taking my existing novels and putting them up for sale on Amazon or B&N or Smashwords to sell a few dozen and give me a little pocket money.

I guess we can’t all be Twilight fanfic authors who get noticed and end up making $1 million a week by after some publisher does a little global s&r, substituting the word “vampire” with “millionaire.” I simply cannot bring myself to read 50 Shades of Grey for fear that I will give up trying to write altogether, staring in bafflement and wondering how shitty, uninformed, amateurish bondage porn can become a national bestseller and propel its fan-girl writer into the literary stratosphere, while I and my friends toil ceaselessly and fruitlessly in the mud and muck with all the other wanna-be authors.

So you might think I’m having a hard time maintaining a positive attitude. Well, yeah, but it doesn’t stop me. In fact I’m going to go do some more revisions right now, since time spent jacking off on my blog equals time spent not writing and revising.

Hang in there all. Another Pit of Swords and Sorcery is coming. Maybe Beastmaster. Yeah, Beastmaster.